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Amare Stoudemire's Rocky Road to Recovery

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For the time being, Amare Stoudemire will have to contribute at the free throw, from outside and with positional defense. (Photo by Max Simbron)
For the time being, Amare Stoudemire will have to contribute at the free throw, from outside and with positional defense. (Photo by Max Simbron)

A few weeks ago Phoenix Suns Head Coach Alvin Gentry declared that his all-star power forward Amare Stoudemire was only about 60% towards full recovery from his eye injury. Gentry wasn't talking about Amare's eye itself which has a clean bill of health, but his conditioning and basketball rhythm.

Amare for his part denied this, declaring himself 100% and fully prepared to tear it up for another season. Amare has never lacked in confidence.

What we saw in last night's season opener was a 60% Amare. He only had 6 field goal attempts and it wasn't for lack of touches. His 6 turnovers mostly came when he put the ball on the floor and was easily stripped by guards digging down. This is a big indication that Amare's timing and court awareness haven't returned.

He was also stripped when he caught the ball in good position or got an offensive rebound and had to take an extra dribble and gather himself before trying to go up to the rim. That's a sign that his explosiveness is no where near what we are used to.

The best thing for Amare might have been that Blake Griffin wasn't on the floor to provide a visible reminder of the power and fury of the Stoudemire of years gone by. That contrast would have been painful to watch.

I don't know for sure if Amare will return to his old form but I am fairly optimistic that he'll bounce back to at least 80% or 90% of what he has before the injury last year.

So, instead of panicking and bringing up the Antonio McDyess comparisons (which I did last night in the game thread) lets all take a deep breath and check back in a few weeks.

But what if Amare doesn't come back to physical dominating form? What if he is McDyess and his injuries force him to change his game? There were some positive signs in that regard as well.

Unlike Rookie of the Year Stoudemire, the version we saw last night still managed to score 16 point with no dunks. He connected on four long jump shots (two from each wing) and missed two shots from the top of the lane. No layups. No dunks.

Amare also scored 8 points from the line and especially in the fourth quarter was able to catch in the mid-post and drive and draw fouls. He had 4 of his 10 FTA's in the 4th quarter.

The rebounds weren't there (5) and there were times when we looked a bit lost on his rotations and let his man beat him to the basket on dives or to get position for rebounds. But there was also a couple of key stops at the end of the game.

He played solid perimeter defense on switches and forced Rasul Butler to hit an incredible shot over him and did a great job playing Eric Gordon tight without fouling on the final shot of the game. His best last game stand however was against Kaman in the low right block. Amare stopped him from going baseline and forced the ball out resulting in a missed long range shot from the Clippers.

If Amare can continue to improve his defense and can still hit his outside shot and get to the line then there's no reason to think that Amare The Beast won't be back better then ever by late November.

Of course, having watched Amare for his entire career I would not be surprised if he went off for 30 against the Warriors on Friday night.

Earl Clark - Surprise of the Game

When Channing Frye went out early in the game with three quick fouls I was certain we would see Jarron Collins at least get a little burn. No. Instead it was Earl Clark who had 20 highly effective minutes in his rookie debut. He put up 6 points, 5 rebounds, 1 block, 1 steal and had no fouls and was a +11 on the floor.

He displayed his no fear attitude on both ends getting to the rim for a couple of nice buckets and playing impressive defense on the wing. His shot selection with that jump shot is still a bit troublesome but you know, at some point that shot is going to start falling for him and he's going to be a legit 1st option when he's on the floor. As long as he's taking open looks in the floor and not forcing it too much then I think we live with that for now.

Having watched Earl in preseason and listening to how the coaches talked about him, I was not expecting him to come out in the first game of the season and play 20 minutes. Big surprise and a good one.

Lou Amundson only had 10 minutes which I suspect was due to a sore foot. He rolled it in practice a few days ago and said that the side of his foot hurts when he tries to move laterally.

Frye in foul trouble. Lou with a sore foot. No Robin Lopez. No Jarron Collins.

You can make the case that Clark's 20 minutes were a big reason why the Suns won this game.

Other Game Links:

  • Suns vs Clippers coverage
  • Suns vs Clippers recap
  • Suns vs Clippers boxscore
  • SUNS: Postgame Quotes: Suns @ Clippers, 10/28/09
  • Clips Nation
  • PopcornMachine's GameFlows
    GameFlows or graphical boxscores of NBA games

  • Nash's 'Old White Guy' Shot Leads Suns Past Clippers -- NBA FanHouse
    "Well, I went to the old 'white guy in the YMCA' shot," Nash said. "And I was lucky to make something happen."
  • azcentral.com - members
    The Suns gave up 56 percent shooting on field goals and were saved because the Clippers could shoot no better than on free throws. The Suns won last year's preseason opener on the road too against a better team, San Antonio, and in a tougher place (the Clippers almost filled the lower bowl!) and look where that got them. But you still have to appreciate the Suns winning a road game like that, when they did not defend well, they could not get in transition, they found their long-distance shooting late and led for only 5:13 of the 48 minutes of action.
  • Rebounding Focus Pays Off for the Suns -- NBA FanHouse
    LOS ANGELES -- Rebounding is all that Suns' head coach Alvin Gentry has been talking about during the preseason, and with his team being an
  • Looking For The Real Amare - TrueHoop By Henry Abbott - ESPN
    “I couldn’t ride a bike,” Stoudemire said. “No treadmill. I couldn’t do anything to keep my cardio up. Couldn’t shoot jumpers. No free throws. That was the entire summer.” That’s the explanation behind the dropoff from February to Wednesday night, from 42 and 11 to 16 and five, from a dominant performance to a night of making long, uncontested jumpers, but losing the ball when he tried to maneuver in the lane. This Amare isn’t that Amare. But if this Amare becomes that Amare he could quite possibly become an ex-Sun.
  • Suns pick up options for Dudley, Lopez
    Team options for Jared Dudley, Robin Lopez are exercised, but not Alando Tucker's.
  • Suns Spot | Clearly, Steve Nash is Too Old
    In the Suns' season opener against the Clippers on Wednesday night, he scored 15 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to rally the Suns to a victory.